Heliconia Gardens in Volcán

This post is also available in: Spanish

Eco tourism offer grows

By Emily Janson

Looking down into a Heliconia flower.

Looking down into a Heliconia flower.

The Volcán region, in Panama’s westernmost province of Chiriquí, has another feather to add to its hat. Resident Carla Black has announced she is offering guided tour access to her personal Heliconia Garden. Opening her garden as an exclusive destination is great news for eco-tourists.

Carla is a world-class gardener and her garden boasts what might be one of the largest collections of Heliconia species in the world. She is president of the Heliconia Society International. A visit to Heliconia Gardens is not just a visual beauty odyssey, it is a walking tour through a maze of neo-tropic flora wonders. One passes by lily ponds, bromeliads (pineapple and air plant family), an epiphyte wall and many ginger plants too.

Heliconias for sale

Many Chiriquí residents know of Carla’s Heliconia Gardens (Finca Chichica) because of her popular annual Heliconia Plant Sale and Garden Open House  www.heliconiagarden.com.

Over the last twenty years she has converted three hectares of dairy pasture into gardens and new growth forests. By planting pioneer trees, habitat for plants, birds, and mammals are created and a renewed ecosystem takes shape. Nothing from Carla’s garden or forest is removed or thrown away; and very little is brought in: pesticides and fertilizers are not necessary in a natural habitat, even a small, young one.

Book a visit

Those interested in touring Heliconia Gardens can please contact Deibys Fonseca at 6723-9842 or deibysf@yahoo.com. Deibys is a renowned guide from Chiriquí and specializes in birding and nature exploration, and is one of few to be granted guiding privileges to Heliconia Gardens.

Lilly pads decorate a pond on the grounds of Heliconia Gardens.

Lilly pads decorate a pond on the grounds of Heliconia Gardens.

The broad leaves of Heliconias look similar to banana plants, as they are close relatives. The plants range in height from just a foot tall (H. stricta ‘Dwarf Jamaican’) to over 30 feet (H. titanum). The flowers, commonly called Lobsterclaws in English, are actually a group of colorful bracts with small true flowers peeping out from between them.





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